BYU offense vs Washington State defense
WSU was 95th in the nation in scoring defense and 82nd in total defense in 2011 and although it has some good players, it won’t be so dramatically improved that it can fully stop the BYU offense. The home team will have senior Riley Nelson’s dual-threat ability and a couple of great receivers on the outside in Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo. Washington State linebacker Travis Long will have a solid performance and BYU will hurt itself a few times with mistakes, but in the end the blue-and-white Cougars will rack up plenty of yards.
Washington State offense vs. BYU defense
This could be strength against strength as Washington State brings in Mike Leach’s potent “Air Raid” offense to square off against the experienced and talented BYU defense. WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel is a senior and has supposedly picked up the new scheme quickly. He has a huge threat in Marquess Wilson, who will cause problems for the Cougar secondary throughout the game. The biggest key for BYU will be getting pressure and not allowing Tuel to settle into the pocket and make his reads. If the home team, led by linebacker Kyle Van Noy, can be disruptive enough, it could be a tough evening for Washington State.
WSU head coach Mike Leach has been successful wherever he goes, including most recently his performance at Texas Tech. That doesn’t happen all at once, however, and he is going to be watching his players take the field to implement the new schemes for the very first time. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, on the other hand, has a group of players that understand what he wants perhaps better than any. The home team also has an offensive coordinator with a full season under his belt, which could make a big difference for the success of the offense.
BYU will be hosting the season-opener in front of an excited crowd in Provo. It also has won its first game in each of the last five seasons. While those victories haven’t been dominating, it indicates that BYU understands how to successfully get on the field and get the job done. WSU is entering the season with new energy and hope, something that has been limited in Pullman in recent years. Both teams will make plenty of mistakes but the home squad has more pluses on its side.
BYU secondary vs. Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson
On paper, it might look like BYU field corner Jordan Johnson will be the most important player in the quest to slow WSU’s Wilson, but in reality it will have to be a team effort. Expect safeties like Daniel Sorensen and Joe Sampson to also be heavily involved with cornerback Preston Hadley also getting a crack against him at times. But it’s going to come down to whether BYU can limit Wilson, not stop him. The junior had 1,388 receiving yards in 2011 and now he’s going to be in a high-octane passing offense. He will probably get to the end zone at least once.
Edge: Washington State
Wilson will score at least once for Washington State and the BYU offense will go through a couple of dry stretches, but the BYU defense will be too much for the visitors in their first game running the “Air Raid” offense. Some WSU turnovers will provide a couple of easy drives for BYU.
BYU 26, Washington State 14
This is the third meeting between BYU and Washington State with the Cougars from Provo holding a slim 2-1 edge in the series. The most recent contest occurred in 1990 with BYU earning a 50-36 victory over WSU. This is the fourth time BYU has started the season against a PAC-12 opponent under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The blue-and-white team lost at Arizona in 2006, then defeated the Wildcats in Provo in 2007 and followed that up by beating Washington in 2010. BYU has won five straight season openers, dating back to the loss at Arizona. Washington State head coach Mike Leach graduated from BYU in 1983, but was never part of the football program.